Guest Blogger Deborah Fulsang's Back-to-School Cake - Sweet Potato Chronicles - Sweet Potato Chronicles

Guest Blogger Deborah Fulsang's Back-to-School Cake

I think we need a new word for the dessert that Deb­o­rah Ful­sang and her kids cre­ated in this post. Cake just seems too plain, too sim­ple. I mean look at it — the height, the swirls! It's like one of her taste testers said, "It's the most epic cake and culi­nary caki­a­tion!" Word. It's also not at all sur­pris­ing to me — Deb always does things with great style.

I've know Deb for about a mil­lion years. Her under­stand­ing of the impor­tance of 5 pm coup of cham­pagne made her one of my favourite trav­el­ing com­pan­ions when we were both work­ing the fash­ion show cir­cuit. Now we're both edi­tors on The Kit, a dig­i­tal and print mag­a­zine about fash­ion, beauty and health. But I was most excited to hear about the fam­ily cook book project that she'd embarked on. I hope we'll be see­ing more recipes from it as it pro­gresses. But I think this is a pretty fab­u­lous way to start, don't you?

Back-to-School Cake with Roasted Marsh­mal­low Topping

By Deb­o­rah Fulsang

Labour Day is a bit­ter­sweet long week­end at our house. Bronzed and shaggy-haired, my kids were still talk­ing about how much fun they had at camp and how awe­some it was to have no bed­time, but also how excited they were to go back to school. Over din­ner in the cou­ple of weeks before, we decided to cre­ate an extra-special cake to com­mem­o­rate the moment. “Four lay­ers!” said my son, Eli­jah. “Spe­cial dec­o­ra­tions,” piped in my grade two-er, Ava.

This cake is the result. It’s a lot of baking—good thing it was a long week­end. I’ve hybridized a few of my go-to recipes into one. (I didn’t touch my never-fail banana cake recipe, so you actu­ally have enough for this cake plus a banana loaf, which I freeze and then have for future school lunches.) From top to bot­tom: banana, vanilla, cof­fee and choco­late, fused together with rich choco­late but­ter­cream, wrapped in a cooked brown sugar frost­ing and topped with roasted marsh­mal­lows (one of my all-time fave sum­mer flavours): The per­fect sugar high to kick-start academia.

I was very happy with this cake, but next time I think I’ll change the vanilla and cof­fee cake lay­ers to a sim­ple white cake instead of this sponge cake recipe, so the tex­tures of the lay­ers are more con­sis­tent. The recipe will also be included in a fam­ily cook­book that I’m making—a chron­i­cle of my Canadian-Danish-Jewish-Polish-Russian family’s absolute favourite recipes—that I’m plan­ning to have com­plete in time for Christmas-Hanukkah gift giving.


Banana Cake Layer (+loaf)

½ but­ter, soft
1 ½ cups mashed, ripe bananas (4 large)
2 eggs
1 ¼ cup white sugar
1 tea­spoon good qual­ity vanilla
2 ¼ cup flour (sifted all-purpose)
2 ½ tea­spoons bak­ing pow­der
½ tea­spoon bak­ing soda
½ tea­spoon salt
¼ cup choco­late chips


Pre­heat oven to 350 degrees.

But­ter one 8×8 square non-stick bak­ing pan and one loaf pan. Set aside.

Mix together but­ter, banana, eggs, white sugar and vanilla until creamy. Add dry ingre­di­ents (except choco­late chips) and con­tinue mix­ing until blended and smooth. Divide into pans.

On the loaf, sprin­kle a few hand­fuls of choco­late chips (to act as yummy frost­ing once cooked). Place both pans in pre­heated oven. Check the cake after 20 min­utes. When tester/skewer comes out clean, it’s done. (My oven takes about 25 min­utes for the square pan; about 35–40 for the loaf.) Remove from oven and set aside to cool.

Choco­late cake layer

½ cup but­ter, soft­ened
¾ cup white sugar
1 tea­spoon vanilla
1 egg
1 cup flour (sifted, all-purpose)
¼ cup Dutch-processed cocoa
½ tea­spoon salt
½ tea­spoon soda
¼ cup but­ter­milk or sour milk (1% or 2% milk com­bined with a tea­spoon of white vine­gar added works well)
¼ boil­ing water


Pre­heat oven to 350 degrees.
But­ter one 8×8 square non-stick bak­ing pan. Set aside.

Mix together but­ter, eggs, white sugar and vanilla until creamy. Com­bine dry ingre­di­ents in a bowl (flour, cocoa, salt, soda).  Add 1/2 dry mix­ture to wet mix­ture. Mix together. Add sour milk. Mix. Add sec­ond half of dry mix­ture. Mix. Add water. Mix until thor­oughly blended.

Pour bat­ter into but­tered pan and place in pre­heated oven. Check the cake after 20 min­utes. When tester/skewer comes out clean, it’s done. (My oven takes about 23 minutes.)

Cof­fee and Vanilla Cake Layers*

These are smaller, thin­ner layers.

3/4 cup but­ter, soft­ened
1 ½ cup white sugar
6 egg whites
2 ¼ cups flour (sifted, all-purpose)
1 ½ tea­spoon bak­ing pow­der
¾ tea­spoon salt
3 table­spoons milk
1 ½ tea­spoons instant espresso pow­der
1 table­spoon boil­ing water


Pre­heat oven to 350 degrees.
But­ter two 8×8 square non-stick bak­ing pans. Set aside.

Com­bine flour and ¼ cup of your white sugar and mix well; set aside. Com­bine your espresso pow­der with boil­ing water and set aside.

Sep­a­rate eggs and beat egg whites until soft peaks form. Grad­u­ally add the other ½ cup white sugar and beat until stiff but not dry. Fold in flour mix­ture in three or four batches into egg whites. Divide bat­ter in half. Pour one half into but­tered 8-inch square pan. For the other half of the bat­ter, add the espresso and stir just to com­bine; then pour into the other 8-inch square pan. Place in oven and set timer for 15 min­utes; check and cook until a skewer tester comes out clean. Remove from oven and set cakes aside to cool.


Choco­late Buttercream

¼ cup but­ter, soft­ened + 1 tea­spoon
2 cups sifted icing sugar
3 squares semi-sweet bak­ing choco­late
a few table­spoons of half-and-half cream


Place the three squares of semi-sweet choco­late in the top of a dou­ble boiler with the tea­spoon of but­ter over medium heat. Stir occa­sion­ally until the choco­late is melted and mixed thor­oughly with the but­ter. Remove from heat.

Com­bine the ¼ cup soft­ened but­ter with the icing sugar in a bowl, add the melted choco­late and a table­spoon of the cream. Stir (or you can beat with an elec­tric or hand mixer). Keep adding cream, a tea­spoon at a time until you get a nice spreadable—not too thick—consistency.

Now it’s time to assem­ble your cake. I worked choco­late on the bot­tom, then a layer of but­ter­cream (best to spread with an off-set spatula—my favourite kitchen tool). Add your cof­fee layer, then a layer of but­ter­cream; fol­low with the vanilla layer, but­ter­cream and the banana cake layer.

Next, roast your marsh­mal­lows and make your brown sugar frosting.

Roasted Marsh­mal­low Topping

1 cup or a few hand­fuls white mini marsh­mal­lows
½ tea­spoon but­ter, softened

Pre­heat broiler of oven (or smaller toaster oven).

Lightly but­ter a small non-stick cookie sheet or pan and place a few hand­fuls of the mini marsh­mal­lows on it. Place in pre­heated oven under the broiler. Watch care­fully and remove when they are roasted to your lik­ing. Set aside to cool.

Brown Sugar Frosting

2 egg whites
1 ½ cups brown sugar
5 table­spoons cold water
1 tea­spoon vanilla
1 tea­spoon bak­ing powder

In a dou­ble boiler, com­bine all ingre­di­ents except vanilla and bak­ing pow­der. Turn your burner on to medium-high (my stove is elec­tric, so 8 out of 10). Beat with an elec­tric mixer on high and keep beat­ing until soft peaks hold their shape. Usu­ally this takes about 7 min­utes, but pay as much atten­tion to the shape as the clock. Remove from heat. Add vanilla and bak­ing pow­der and then beat for a few more min­utes again until the peaks holds their shape.

Frost your cake all over—all four layers—sides and top, and make some fun swirls to give it tex­ture and drama.

Remove the layer of mini marsh­mal­lows from the pan. You should be able to do so almost in one piece, and layer it on top of your cake.

Ta-da! Your mas­ter­piece is done. Serve with cold milk to as many kids as possible.

Cri­tiques from thor­oughly biased test testers (my kids, nieces and neighbours):

Eli­jah, age 9: "on a scale of 1–10, the scale broke."
Tay­lor, age 6: "If I had a mil­lion hands, they'd all have thumbs up."
Caryn, age 9: "This is the cake for non-icing lovers."
Claire: age 8: "Delight­ful."
Nami, age 13: "the most epic cake and culi­nary caki­a­tion."
Ava, age 6: "On a scale of 1–10, 100."



  1. ZOMG. I have no words. Must. Try. This. Cake. And my kid doesn't even like sugar.

  2. Antonella D'Elia says:

    How per­fect! A new yearly tra­di­tion to look for­ward to. Will be enjoy­ing this new rit­ual with my kids next fall. Love cre­at­ing mini-holidays!
    Thanks Deborah!

  3. It's actu­ally a good grown-up cake too. I per­son­ally love that the boiled icing as it isn't too sweet. But roasted marsh­mal­lows are, but doesn't mat­ter since they're awe­some no mat­ter how old you are.

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